Steven Philp

I find it hard to pinpoint when, exactly, I came out; my story, like that of many others, is a continuing narrative rather than a discrete moment in time. This is not to say that I can’t remember when and where I came out to the important people in my life – my mother at a pizza parlor; my father over the phone; my closest friends throughout my freshman year of high school, my freshman year of college, my first year of graduate school. Yet, I have found that my identity as a member of the LGBT community is constantly changing, becoming stronger and more nuanced as I enter adulthood. In this way, it’s best to tell you about the two moments that bookend my coming out story – where I began the process, and where I am now.

The first person I came out to was myself, the second G-d. Like many young LGBT people, I struggled through middle school to reconcile my attraction towards other men with my conservative religious upbringing. Try as I might, I couldn’t make those feelings go away. So one night in the winter of 2001, grappling with frustration and doubt, I prayed for hours, asking G-d to help me change. But then, from the silence, this question dawned on me – what if this was the way that had G-d intended me to be, all along? Perhaps the pain I experienced was not the result of sin per se, but from a lack of faith. G-d did not want me to change. Rather, my challenge was to love myself – for all my differences – the way that I was loved by G-d.

A couple months ago, my rabbi gave a D’var Torah that took issue with the phrase, “You complete me.” Why would G-d create us to be incomplete? Too often we look outside ourselves for wholeness – in another person, material goods, or accolades – when we are, in and of ourselves, complete. As a young man, struggling with my sexual identity, I had thought that – if only I could change – I would be whole, and therefore happy. But I was born whole. Under the pressure of responsibility and consumer culture, it’s easy to forget this. I look outside myself, as a member of the LGBT community, thinking that I will be more complete as a gay man if I had a boyfriend, or if I showed more pride. I ask myself, am I doing enough for myself and for the community at large?

The answer is yes; I am enough. And so are you. We are the way G-d intended us to be. Our challenge, as members of the LGBT community, is to remember this.